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Composting with an Electric Composter

Updated on February 9, 2013

No matter how you slice it (compost humor), composting is the way to go. If you are reading this article you probably are already a believer and know that there is no point in sending your yard and kitchen waste to landfills. Those decomposing items are full of vitamins and minerals that can boost depleted soils.

Indoor Electric Composter

Recently, I was given an indoor, electric composter (Nature Mill HC52 Composter) to supplement my outside composters. The idea of composting right where the waste was being created was attractive. It didn’t hurt that I would get compost faster than the outside way. In fact this gift was a result of me sharing my enthusiasm for this indoor dream machine to my spouse. A few weeks later it appeared out of nowhere (a brown truck).

One obvious drawback to electric composters is that they are not the greenest things in the world. They need energy unlike their original counterparts. Maybe if you have one hooked up to your solar panel you can justify this luxury. If you are lacking your own personal renewable energy source, you might want to invent a manually cranked composter that generates it’s own power. Until that day, it might be better to stick with outdoor varieties.

Electric Composters Handle Proteins

Once the electric composter arrived, I read the instructions and did as recommended to make the first load with wood pellets, baking soda and some of my own soil. This somehow calibrates the composter to your soil needs. After that initial batch to get the composter up and running, I started adding the recommended ingredients that come listed on a sheet that arrives with the machine. Electric composters, get hot enough to handle fish, chicken, and other proteins not recommended for outdoor composting. Other than proteins, everything else can be handled by an indoor electric composter in the same way as the outdoor pile behind the shed or whatever you have for outside composting.

Electric Composters do not like Smelly Foods


Still life on composter by net_efekt on Flickr,
Still life on composter by net_efekt on Flickr,

Here is the biggest drawback to the indoor electric composter, it can’t handle anything smelly. (Like the lack of greenness mentioned above, this is another disappointing aspect). They recommend no onions or garlic, because the odor will permeate your house. Once you get into it, you realize that all decomposing matter has a smell unless it is mixed with large amounts of dead and dry items, like leaves and hay. The machine is too little to handle copious amounts of anything. It also does not like anything stringy and bigger than 4 inches.

I followed the rules, did not include any of the offensive odors, and added only regular stuff like apple cores, broccoli pieces, mushrooms, eggshells, and whatever else. Mind you, I mixed in the recommended wood pellets and baking soda to keep the mixture in balance. A few days later, it smelled so bad my six year old son wondered if I had decided to compost our dog’s poop and my spouse said it smelled like dirty diapers. It smelled. I added more pellets and baking soda, but my smelly combination was too disgusting to control. It had to be extracted from the machine. A bit of a bummer, but I still used all that good stuff outside.

Composting in the Winter

Let us say, you choose all the right nice smelling items and end up with perfect compost, you need to put it somewhere. Typically, this means into your frozen or dormant garden. If frozen, you cannot really mix this into your soil. The best you can do is place it on the soil, which it will eventually join. Not a big deal really.

While I am bashing this well intended machine, you need to know that it cannot take any fibrous or stringy items, because they will mess up the metal bars that mix up everything. Nothing too hard can be added, probably because it takes too long to convert into compost. This is ok, because these things take time outside also. Paper is another no no, which might be because it is combustible.

The Indoor Electric Composter in a Nutshell

To summarize, the three things that I find the most inconvenient about indoor electric composters are the lack of smelly, stringy or too acidic things allowed, it’s inability to deal with excess liquid, and the fact that it is not very green. Smelly foods should be composted along with everything less smelly. Fruits and vegetables are made up of lots of water, which means excess liquid is a natural by-product. The indoor composter is not set up to deal with the liquid and suggests you leave it in the machine longer, which doesn’t work because the liquid doesn’t have a way to evaporate out of the machine.

One other negative to the machine is that you hear the process. When people visit without knowing I have the composter in the other room, they wonder what is happening. It is not super loud or anything that will keep you up at night, but the process makes noise.

Composting Inside is Convenient


Still life on composter, by net_efekt on Flickr,
Still life on composter, by net_efekt on Flickr,

There are a few great things to composting inside. The convenience is very cool. Especially if it means you do not need to take off your slippers to walk across the frozen yard to your outdoor compost bin. Some of the items you would not typically put into your outdoor composter can be composted inside. That would be proteins such as meat, chicken, fish, fish bones, shrimp tails, and cheese. Outside, proteins do not work, but inside with an electric composter it is ok.

Inside Composter vs. Outside Composter

Outside composters have been around as long as vegetation has existed.  Something would die, fall on the ground, and decompose into the soil.  In nature composting happens at it’s own rate based on all the factors of that specific environment.

It makes sense to have something that decomposes at it’s own rate without any mechanical assistance.  Of course, you can measure the temperature, control the balance and cut up everything into quickly decomposing sizes, but you probably do not need to add any energy.

What are your composting experiences and thoughts?

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    • Jessay profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Hi Cynthia,

      Simply based on my experience, I would not recommend the electric composter. Have you considered a plastic tub with worms? I haven't actually done this myself, but I have a friend who did this to minimize odors. It is worth researching.

      It is also possible, that Nature Mill has made some adjustments that address some of the problems I had.

      Good luck and let me know what you end up doing,


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I live in an apartment in Seattle, WA. I was thinking of getting this very same electric composter. But, now Im not so sure. Am I better off not doing it at all? I can't have any smell in the apartment or management will make me get rid of it.


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